Fort Hood Sentinel
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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2014  04:40:56 PM

Troops coming, going, fiscal issues, community ‘closure’ top news in ‘13

Email   Print   Share By Dave Larsen, Chief, Command Information
January 9, 2014 | News
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As they wind down their deployment to Afghanistan this year, III Corps Headquarters staff members topped the front page of the Fort Hood Sentinel in 2013 by casing the corps’ colors in April.

“During the upcoming year, we will ensure that the Afghan people are ready to defend their young democracy against terrorists who seek to destroy it,” Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps commanding general said at the April 4 casing ceremony.

The casing ceremony marked the sixth time III Corps has deployed in its rich history, but its first to Afghanistan, where it joined with troops from other NATO nations to form the International Joint Command.

“We are deploying to Afghanistan at a pivotal time in our nation’s history,” Milley added, “and at a pivotal time in Afghanistan’s history.”

Coverage of the III Corps’ mission abroad hit the front page several times last year, including Milley’s outreach to Central Texas leaders, July 2, and a press conference with area media members Sept. 4.

During his 90-minute video teleconference with area leaders, Milley reviewed the accomplishments of U.S. forces in Afghanistan as security operations continued to be handed over to Afghan control. He noted to community leaders that the Afghan forces were leading the effort in about 95 percent of all operations, which included approximately 2,000 patrols daily.

“The fight is on,” Milley said, “and the Afghans are bearing the burden of that fight.”

Even with a planned drawdown of deployed forces in Afghanistan, the 1st Cavalry Division bid farewell to the 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team, who likewise cased its colors June 27 and deployed to Afghanistan just several months after III Corps.

“(The brigade) is deploying to help set conditions for the successful return of Soldiers currently in Afghanistan,” Col. Robert Whittle, Black Jack Brigade commander, said at the casing ceremony on Cooper Field.

“Our Soldiers are trained, capable and experts, ready to succeed in the upcoming deployment,” Whittle added.



Gone, not forgotten

As in every year the past decade-plus, farewells and homecomings were highlighted throughout the year. In the case of the 1st Cav.’s 4th “Long Knife” Brigade Combat Team, the unit returned from its Afghan deployment in August only to case its colors forever as the first Army BCT to draw down from the active Army Oct. 17.

“Long Knife Soldiers, past and present, thank you for all you have done,” Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, commanding general of the 1st Cav. Div. and Fort Hood senior commander said at the ceremony. “Your legacy and greatness will forever live in the rolls of Army history.”

The brigade, which activated just eight years earlier at Fort Bliss, deployed four times in its short history – three times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

“Though we case our colors,” Col. William Benson, the Long Knife Brigade’s last commander said at the ceremony, “we do not erase all that these brigade Soldiers and leaders have accomplished in the past, or will accomplish in the future.”



Fiscal uncertainty

One of the biggest stories of 2013, nationally and here in Central Texas, was first the furlough of government employees brought on by the budgetary constraints of sequestration, followed in October with a brief shutdown of the federal government.

While Soldiers came to work throughout both events and government employees were paid for time lost during the

shutdown, Department of Defense employees lost six days pay during the non-consecutive furlough period.

Throughout the year, beginning in February, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Hood officials continued to reach out to its civilian workforce through town hall meetings and briefings as they attempted to provide clarity to employees on the impact of fiscal uncertainties facing Fort Hood.

“We consider the garrison as a Family business,” Andy Bird, deputy garrison commander, said as Fort Hood employees returned to work following the furlough imposed by the government shutdown in October. “Every day there’s a delay in making decisions, it compounds the stress that makes up the numerous fiscal uncertainties we experience daily.”

While a budget for 2014 has passed, looking ahead, Fort Hood still faces a Reduction in Force, or RIF, this fiscal year.

“We are standing by, tentatively waiting for more guidance across the Army, and here at Fort Hood,” Col. Matt Elledge, garrison commander, said during his live Facebook and Fort Hood Radio Town Hall event, Oct. 24.



Closure

A panel of Army officers found former Maj. Nidal Hasan guilty on all 45 counts he faced from his court martial, Aug. 23 – 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. The panel recommended the death sentence for Hasan, who arrived at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for post-trial confinement, Aug. 30.

The trial, which received national attention, and the subsequent guilty verdict and death sentence recommendation offered some measure of closure to the Fort Hood community, and especially the Families of the 13 victims from Hasan’s Nov. 5, 2009 shooting rampage.

“This guy is obviously guilty. We all knew it from the beginning, from day one,” Dale Pierce, a retired Soldier and Fort Hood community member said after the sentence was announced. Pierce was also a friend and former coworker of Michael Cahill, a retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 and one of the 13 fatal victims of the Nov. 5, 2009 shootings at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center.

“Cahill was a guy I’d always go see for sick call back when we were both in the Army,” Pierce recalled. “He was such a wonderful guy. (He) didn’t deserve what Hasan did to him. None of them did. Hasan deserves this sentence.”

By far the most common reaction to the verdict and sentencing of Hasan, though, was summed up by Meagan Caton, a Fort Hood Army spouse, who thought more of the Families who had lost loved ones and the innocent victims of the shooting spree.

“The most important thing now,” she said, “is that those survivors and Family members will finally have some sort of closure after almost four years.”
 
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